SailBlogs
Bookmark and Share
The Voyage of S/V Estelle
Cruising from Maritime Canada to Florida in our Bristol 41.1
The Light Show is Impressive
Jim Lea
03/01/2008, Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas.

Well, today's sail was beautiful... for the first hour. We raised the anchor at 0730 hrs, very, very early for us, and sailed down in the lee of Great Guana Cay for 12 miles to Galliot Cut where we headed out into Exuma Sound. Last week with Florence and Eugene we sailed up the sound in absolutely flat water, and for 2 days! But that was an anomaly. Today we experienced what Exuma Sound usually has to offer... 6'-8' seas and a beat in 20 knots down the sound. We slogged it out for 33 miles and made Georgetown by 1630 hrs, exhausted and covered in salt! We sailed with a cat, Exit Strategy, and pushed our noses out just as the current changed at the cut, ensuring that we wouldn't have to bash through the standing waves referred to as "A Rage". But it was a slog down, and we just hunkered down and by sundown (time for a good G&T), we were anchored in Georgetown in company with 290 other cruisers! Anchored safely, we called a couple of boats we knew, "Sam the Skull" next to us and "Seabird" but got no reply. Later, we remembered that in Georgetown they have a protocol that uses VHF Channel 69 for hailing, nit the usual 16. No wonder the VHF was so quiet in a harbor with 290 boats! At dusk, we sat in the cockpit relaxing and were amazed at the light show from the anchor lights of 290 boats. It looked more like a cityscape than a remote Bahamas town! After steak on our newly refurbished and now working BBQ, we headed for bed. Tomorrow's sail will be a bit of a repeat of todays, a bit shorter, but with higher winds and again close hauled. We're sharpening up our heavy weather sailing!
The photo is of Blair Buchannan (Strathspey) on the guitar in our cockpit during coctail hour in Thompson Bay.

| | More
Oh what a busy week!
Jim Lea
02/29/2008, Staniel Cay, Bahamas.

Where has the time gone!! After leaving Fernandez Bay last Wednesday (Feb 20), we headed back across Exuma Sound in another great sail and arrived at Dotham Cut just at peak current running in. Watching the speed on the GPS, we saw it rise from our 6.5 knots we averaged on the crossing and saw it climb to a new record of 10.6 knots as we squirted through the cut into the Banks calm waters. Rounding up to the anchorage at Black Point, we saw over 30 other boats anchored, but its a large anchorage, so we had no problem finding a spot. Black Point was our objective for two reasons; first because it is an easy cut and close to Staniel Cay where we were to meet the Rossiters and second, because it has a laundromat, which we needed desperately! So Thursday was laundry day, then across to anchor at Staniel, where we met Eugene and Florence on Saturday morning. Their arrival coincided with some of the most unusual weather of the winter... three days of very light (less than 5 knots) south-west winds! So with E&F aboard and settled in, we headed out the cut at Staniel and sailed north on the unusually calm Exumas Sound. Sailing up to Cambridge Cay, we turned in the cut at Cambridge Cay and coasted in to the anchorage in late afternoon. With the dinghy launched, we set off to take advantage of the quiet weather and went over to check out the coral at Rocky Dundas. Then, landing on Cambridge Cay, we took a new-to-us path that led to Honeymoon Beach, one of the most beautiful we have found yet. Both Rocky Dundas and Honeymoon Beach are usually not calm enough to enjoy in the usual weather, but today they were extraordinary! Back aboard, we had Sundowner Gin & Tonics all around and dinner of Butter Chicken. In the morning, we headed back out into the sound in the light south-westerly winds. Unable to resist the beautiful sailing, we sailed 25 miles north to Normans Cay where we headed in to the anchorage and found a spot and settled in. Ashore we explored the ruins of Carlos Lheder's drug operations of the 70's and 80's and the sunken DC-3 that missed his runway and landed in the water.
On Tuesday, we paid the price for our beautiful sails of the previous two days. It was time to start back south, and the wind was still out of the south, so we had a heavy day of it working our way back, but by days end, we were settled in to Pipe Creek, a snug anchorage where we would spend two nights and wait out a strong front that was due late Wednesday. Dinner for the evening was Butter Chicken and rice with both red and white wine. Wednesday dawned with the wind still fresh out of the west. But in the shelter of Pipe Creek we were able to go for some exploration around the area. I don't know why its called Pipe Creek, as it is really more of an area with a bunch of cuts and a bunch of cays and a maze of channels running through. Some cays are totally empty and others have buildings on them, but none matches Little Pipe Cay for elegance. With its heli-pad, staff quarters, main home and guest houses, it is very impressive... but empty! For safety sake when wht winds shifted, we put a second anchor out, and I had to dive on it to get it properly set, but it gave us the assurance that we wouldn't drift back onto a rock ledge when the wind swung to the north. So with drinks in hand, we watched the front come through. Fortunately, we dodged the rain and lightening, but watched it pass to the west of us just as the wind swung abruptly from west to north at 20-25 knots. And riding quietly on our second anchor, we were in the lee of Thomas Cay just a few yards off our bow. The only negative was we were unable to go to Sampson Cay for dinner. So Thursday morning we raised anchor and motored down for lunch. After lunch and an inspection tour of the marina and boats, we headed down to Staniel Cay where we anchored for the night and had dinner at the Yacht Club. Then this morning we zipped over to the airport to see Eugene and Florence off on Flamingo Air, a fun week! Tomorrow we head down the coast aiming for Stella Maris Marina on Long Island where we'll leave the boat while we travel to Western Canada for skiing and family visits!

| | More
03/01/2008 | Fran
So great to see you're on the blog again! Began to worry. You're missing another snowstorm...what a shame.
By the light of the Eclipsed Moon
Jim Lea
02/20/2008, Fernandez Bay, Cat Island, Bahamas.

This morning we woke to a heavy downpour that lasted for about a half hour, unusually long for the Bahamas. But by 8:00 am the sun was out, things had dried and the temperature had soared to its customary 80F. For breakfast we had French Toast made with fresh coconut bread that we bought yesterday, and it was delicious... a touch of cinnamon and a splash of fresh orange juice in the batter, and maple syrup on top, and it can't be beaten! So good that we hoisted anchor and motored down to New Bight back to the bakery. We had ordered cornbread, but were going to get more coconut bread, but some other cruisers had beaten us to it. Back aboard, we hoisted anchor and sailed under jib alone around to Fernandez Bay Resort. I called ahead on the VHF to book a table for dinner for 4, since Tropicat Too decided to follow us over. In the tiny bay we anchored and took the bikes ashore for some exploring in this area of Cat Island. After a good bike ride on rough road (really just a trail), we found an incredible pink sand beach about 3 miles long, totally empty. After a good walk, some beachcombing and another bike ride, we were back aboard for a quick shower and change into our best clothes and back ashore for drinks before dinner. There were three other boats in for dinner, and a number of resort guests and drinks, from the honour bar, were accompanied with some nibbles. It was interesting talking to some of the guests, a family from Toronto in the process of buying property on Cat, and also we met the EU attaché in Washington down on vacation. Dinner didn't measure up to the atmosphere of the beautiful resort, but it was fun. Then back to the boat where we watched the total eclipse of the full moon above us. A very nice evening! Tomorrow we're off to The Exumas where we will meet Eugene and Florence Rossiter on Sunday! We're hoping for good weather!

| | More
A rollicking sail across Exuma Sound
Jim Lea
02/18/2008, Old Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas.

On Sunday morning, we sailed off the anchor at Conception Island and headed for The Bight at the southern end of Cat Island. Our course was north-west, dead downwind, not a favorite point of sail, so we headed up off our course and reached westward into Exuma Sound in a 20 knot breeze. Gybing across to clear Hawks Nest Point, we watched the GPS record 9 knots, a tremendous speed for us. We were assisted by a 1.5 knot current at our backs. Because of the speed we were running at and the 6'-8' swell, we decided against fishing. The thought of stopping the boat and fighting a fish from the deck was more than we were prepared to do. But as we came up to Hawks Nest Point and in the lee of the point, we ran out the line, but no luck. At Hawks Nest Point, we could see the shoal area as a definite line, and it was eerie to be charging straight at shallow water with still no reading on the depth sounder. Finally it kicked in with a reading of 350', then seconds later it was 12'. The drop-off is incredibly steep and close to shore. But we tore on in and on our new course set out into The Bight. The Bight is a sort of bay about 8 miles from north to south and 3 miles deep. And across it the depths run from 12' to 6' near shore. In the south-east wind the waves were a short choppy 2'-3', but not too comfortable to anchor in off New Bight, the community at the northern end of the bay. So we decided to head for the south-east corner of the bay off the settlement of Old Bight. Here in the lee of the land we found a quiet anchorage with one other boat about a mile away. Just after the anchor was down, we were hailed by Tropi-Cat Too, a motor cat. We had met Richard and Meghan Rinker in Thompson Bay the previous week. They were anchored at New Bight and had seen us coming in and called to enquire about our anchorage. When I said it was great, they immediately headed up and anchored a short distance away from us. Ashore, we walked up to Old Bight, about 3/4 mile, and as it was Sunday, everything (the gas station) was closed. But we saw a car rental agency, so decided to check it out. Monday morning, we called Tropi-Cat and invited them to join us on our tour. By the time we were all organized and had the car it was late morning. In the car (right-hand drive for the Bahamas left-hand side driving) we headed south to Port Howe. All the charts and guides say that there is no harbour here, but coming across from Conception we chatted with a trimaran who was headed into Port Howe, so we wanted to see where he landed. And we found him anchored in calm (and shallow) water inside what to us seemed to be a solid line of reefs with white surf tumbling across. There was also a 40' motor boat and a large cat anchored further out, so there must be a way in. But not for us. Off again, after inspecting the ruins (lots in Cat Island) of an old plantation manor house, we stopped at Hawks Nest Marina for lunch where Jeannie had a huge wahoo sandwich and I had the best conch chowder I have ever tasted. After lunch (it was now mid-afternoon) we headed north through Old Bight, through New Bight and up to Fernandez Bay where there is a beautiful resort. Back at the boat, we recovered from our big day with sundowners in the cockpit and made Ground Beef Stroganoff for dinner, another excellent dinner that was nicely accompanied by a Chianti! This morning we still had the car (until noon) so we headed north to New Bight and up to The Hermitage, built by Father Jerome when he completed his work on all the churches here. His hermitage, built single handed, is a miniature copy of one in Europe and is an amazing piece of work. I will post pictures when I get a chance. Then a stop for fresh bread at a local bakery shop (just in the lady's kitchen) and a couple of groceries at the local grocery store, then drop the car off and back to the boat. After a late lunch, we did a couple of boat projects, a beach walk and ended the day with Sundowners on Tropi-Cat. Tomorrow off to Fernandez Bay.

| | More
Turtles, turtles, ya,ya,ya!
Jim Lea
02/16/2008, Conception Island, Bahamas.

This morning we worked our way out of our anchorage at Hog Cay. We had worked our way in between the cay and a small reef just off it by 1/4 mile, but had to find the deepest point to pass through. But we made it with 6" to spare! Outside, we hoisted sail, shut down the engine and set off around Cape Santa Maria for Conception Island. In a south east breeze of 15 knots, we were pretty well close hauled (pointed as close as possible to the wind) and still bearing about 15 degrees off our course. But that's not too bad; we could just carry on and tack over once we were close (too complicated to explain), and make it in to Conception. There is a strong (2 knots) current flowing north-east between Long Island and Conception Island, and we could definitely feel it dragging us away from our objective. About noon, the wind rose to 18-20 k nots, and a merry sea set up (6'-8'), but we were making good progress to Conception, so were happy. We watched a small (40') motor boat in the Maritime lobster boat style pass us, and head off to Conception's anchorage, as our reel fired off its Zzzzzing! In the 6'-8' seas, we furled the jib, dropped the main and I began the fight. And 45 minutes later, with me exhausted and the largest mahi mahi I have ever seen alongside, I reached over with the gaff. One look at me was enough for him and he jumped clear of the water, snapped the 80 pound test line and was gone! We consoled ourselves by saying that we doubted we could have lifted him on deck anyway, and that there would have been too much food for our freezer and stuff like that as we just motored the last 3 miles to Conception. Once anchored in the lee of the island, we launched the dinghy for some exploring. Conception Island is a Land and Sea park, meaning no fishing allowed. But a lot of people seem to ignore the rules as there is no one to enforce them. There is a small creek that drains a large mangrove swamp that occupies most of the island's interior. This mangrove area has become a place where turtles (mostly Green Turtles, some leatherbacks) come to spend the years up to maturity. So in the dinghy you can see their heads poking up for air, or you can see their dark shapes scurrying out of your way beneath the surface. And they are really fast! But as a park, we were surprised when we entered the mangroves to see a 20' outboard with a woman with a net on the bow chasing the turtles! Even though we have seen people spearfishing for lobster, we never expected to see this! Not sure what to do, we cautiously approached them as we had to pass closely to get further in. And as we approached, the woman called over to tell us they were tagging turtles. We watched for a while, and it was not easy to catch them, but they did get three. With that they began to measure and tag them, and invited us aboard to watch. Working from the University of Florida, they have been studying them for over 30 years. We talked while they worked, measuring, weighing and photographing each one, and we learned a lot about the turtles strugle to survive. An endangered species, they are now extinct in the Bahamas except for this one area, where they no longer nest, but for some reason, come to spend their juvenile years. Finished measuring and tagging, we took them ashore in our dinghy and back into the mangroves where they fled quickly. A very interesting afternoon! For dinner, with no fresh fish, we roasted two cornish hens with sweet potatoes and salad. And with that we settled down to a rare calm evening on Conception. With the moon nearing full, the beach glowed bright in the dark of night

| | More
Land of the Whistling Ducks
Jim Lea
02/15/2008, Hog Cay, Long Island, Bahamas.

This morning we hoisted anchor and sailed up the west shore of Long Island, heading north. In a perfect beam reach we arrived off Hog Cay (just 1/2 mile south of Joe's Sound entrance) in early afternoon. Picking our way in behind some coral, we dropped anchor off a wide empty beach on 8' of water. We watched the anchor set itself and settled in for a late lunch. After lunch, I got out my SCUBA gear and changed the anode on the propeller shaft. The anode is made of zinc and acts as a sacrificial piece of metal, as it will corrode brfore any metal to which it is connected electrically, including the engine. There is also an anode in the engine itself which is immersed in the raw water coolant. I replaced it last week. The one on the prop shaft was over 90% gone in just over 2 months. Anodes seem to deteriorate more quickly here in the warmer and more saline water. At home, I rarely needed to change one after 4 months. After the anode change, I cleaned the bottom, again just after 2 months. But it wasn't too bad, and I was able to get it done quite quickly. Then we dinghied ashore for a walk and a swim, and back to the boat for dinner. We didn't go into Joes Sound because of the tides. Had we gone in, we would not have been able to get out until noon at the earliest, and that would be too late to start out for Conception, our plan for tomorrow. As we were eating in the cockpit at sunset, we heard a pair of whistling ducks fly by with their clear distinctive whistles. And they always do it on exactly the same note! It is a haunting sound in the quiet of the dusk. Then an osprey flew by with its dinner of fish in its claws, then moon and stars. Tomorrow, Conception Island!
The photo is of sunset tonight across Exuma SOund, taken from our anchorage.

| | More
The Fine Art of Anchoring
Jim Lea
02/12/2008, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas.

It has been blowing since Sunday night with winds a steady 25 knots and up to 35 knots in squalls. The squalls ended yesterday, and today we're down to 18-22. But the wind has clocked (moved in a clock-wise direction) from east where it was when we anchored, to south today, so that we are now not in the lee of Long Island. We have a couple of miles of fetch to windward, creating seas of 2'-3', which doesn't sound like much, and normally isn't, but after three days of wind, and these seas which started yesterday afternoon, it's getting tiresome. The main thing, however, is being well anchored. When we anchored, we took into account the wind direction and strength, so we tucked in close to shore to be in the lee of the island as long as it was in the east, and that worked. We knew the forecast was for it to clock into the south, so we also made sure we were in shallow water with good sand and no grass on the bottom for good holding. When anchoring, the bottom is important for obvious reasons. Last week in Calabash Bay, we set the anchor four times before we got it to hold. In about 12' of water, we could see sand and no grass, so dropped the anchor, thinking we were fine. But you don't just drop it. It must be properly "set", or dug in. To do that, the appropriate amount of chain is run out, and a "snubber" or short length of rope attached, to prevent the load of the boat coming on the windlass, and then we reverse at high power. That way the chain stretches out and the anchor digs in if the bottom is "good holding". In Calabash bay, when we backed down, the chain kept jumping and we kept moving back, indicating the anchor was just bouncing across the bottom. In many places here in the Bahamas, the bottom appears to be sand, but is really just a dusting of sand over rock, and that's what we found in Calabash Bay. Finally, on our fourth try, we located a spot with good deep sand, and the anchor set immediately. In addition to a good bottom, you need the correct depth, and shallow is better than deep. For a chain rode (anchor line), it takes 5' of chain for every 1' of water depth. So if we anchored in 5' of water, adding the distance from the surface to the bow, another 4', means 9X5=3D45' of chain. But since the boat draws 5' and tidal ranges are about 3', we need to anchor in a minimum of 10' at high tide to ensure we have 2' beneath the keel at low tide. So that means our minimum amount of chain is (14X5) 70'. But that is for normal anchoring. Here when we anchored, we ran out 100' due to the forecast (we carry 150' of chain on one rode and 75' of chain spliced to 150' of line as a second). And talking to other boats in the anchorage, that seems about average. But a couple of boats are using a combination of rope and chain, with 20' of chain attached to the anchor and then rope from there. While that makes easier lifting (if you have no windlass), it requires even more "scope", about 7 to 1. Once the anchor is set, we will check it. We do this a number of ways: in many areas the water is so clear that we can watch the anchor dig in and completely bury itself just watching from the deck. If not, we can go out in the "lookee bucket", a bucket with a clear plastic bottom. Or sometimes I put on snorkel gear and dive on it. From time to time I have actually had to dive on it and drag it over to a nearby patch of sand before we are finally anchored. And the final piece of the puzzle that assures a good sleep is our anchor alarm. On the GPS, we set an alarm that goes off if the boat moves outside a circle of 100' (just over 2 boat lengths). So we leave the GPS on all night and if we do move, we are immediately wakened. At 100', it will go off if the wind changes direction, but we'd rather be woken occasionally unnecessarily than wake up on the rocks! I won't bore you any further with anchoring, except to mention that we use a Bruce anchor, others use a plow (or CQR) while others use a Danforth style. We have a second anchor, a Fortress, and some times use both set out in a "V" ahead of the boat. And finally, we have a Storm anchor that weighs 80 pounds that is only intended for very serious weather, as I have no idea how would ever get it out of th bottom and back into the boat if I used it! So, all in all, among the 32 boats in the bay, no one was seen dragging, so we must be doing something right!
The photo is of Jeannie and Mary with the world champion free diver (225'), left, and a local diver.

| | More
02/15/2008 | Gerald Doucet
Many thanks for the anchoring tips. Have followed your suggestions in anticipation of our teip
02/17/2008 | John Carr
Thanks for the tips on anchoring---we too have a Bruce 44 and a fortress backup. We have never had a problem with the Bruce and have held in place , although I was up most of the nightwhen others all around us have dragged. Enjoy the Blog.
Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt!
Jim Lea
02/12/2008, Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas.

That was the beginning of today's weather forecast by Chris Parker on the SSB. Based on the weather forecast, we left Joes Sound to come down here, about 25 miles, on Sunday morning. The timing of the tides in Joes Sound was perfect, with high water at 10:30 in the morning. We headed out, and just behind us, Seabird followed us out. We decided to try a bit of fishing, so motored north towards Cape Santa Maria for a few miles. We used the depth sounder to keep ourselves just on the drop-off, where the depth drops from less than 100' to over 1000' in a half mile. This is where the best fishing (usually) is, but we were blanked, so we turned around and hoisted the sails for the run down to Thompson. In a beam reach that slowly grew during the afternoon to around 20 knots by the time we anchored, we had a beautiful sail. Settled in with the anchor well set in Thompson Bay's excellent holding, we felt set for the upcoming blow. And it started blowing during the night, so that by morning, all 30 boats in the bay were tugging on their anchor chains. Winds are a steady 25 knots with gusts to 35 in squalls. But with the excellent holding, nobody seemed to have any problems. During the day we had a number of squalls that washed off the salt. Ashore we timed our walks between the squalls and hardly got wet at all! Aboard, we did some small jobs, and Jeannie made bread while I roasted a chicken for dinner. And then we spent another windy night at anchor. But when we anchored, we tucked in close to the shore where its high cliffs mean that we aren't exposed to the full force of the wind, and the seas are really quite small, so that getting ashore is not a problem. Chris said today that this is the strongest front in a number of years, and is expected to last until noon tomorrow when it will just collapse, leaving light winds for the balance of the week. So we'll just hang on for another day, then set out somewhere tomorrow afternoon or Thursday.For today, I have a few more boat projects, we'll head ashore to Max's Conch Bar, for wireless and lunch, then get together with Strathspey and Seabird for a Skippers meeting regarding plans and a sundowner. Another tough day!!

| | More

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]

 

 
Powered by SailBlogs